Film Review – THE VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU (1967)

VENGEANCE OF FU MANCHU, THE (1967, UK/Ireland/West Germany/Hong Kong) **½
Action, Crime, Horror

dist. Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors (UK), Warner Bros./Seven Arts (USA); pr co. Constantin Film / Shaw Brothers / Terra-Filmkunst; d. Jeremy Summers; w. Harry Alan Towers (as Peter Welbeck) (based on the characters created by Sax Rohmer); pr. Harry Alan Towers; ph. John von Kotze (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.66:1); m. Malcolm Lockyer; s. “The Real Me,” “Where Are the Men,” m/l. Malcolm Lockyer and Don Black (voice performed by Samantha Jones); ed. Allan Morrison; ad. Peggy Gick, Scott MacGregor; sd. Brian Marshall (Mono); rel. May 1967 (UK), Jamuary 1968 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 91m.

cast: Christopher Lee (Fu Manchu), Tony Ferrer (Inspector Ramos), Tsai Chin (Lin Tang), Douglas Wilmer (Nayland Smith), Wolfgang Kieling (Dr. Lieberson), Suzanne Roquette (Maria), Howard Marion-Crawford (Petrie), Noel Trevarthen (Mark Weston), Horst Frank (Rudy), Peter Carsten (Kurt), Maria Rohm (Ingrid), Mona Chong (Jasmin).

Lee’s third outing as the evil Fu Manchu sees him plot the death of his nemesis Nayland Smith (Wilmer) through the highly implausible use of a surgically created double, whilst looking to hook up with crime syndicates around the world via their go-between (Frank). This entry is not as tightly directed as the first two instalments with often static and unimaginative camerawork robbing the action scenes of much of the energy Don Sharp brought to those first two films. Lee has little to do other than give orders from his throne. However, Chin is again effective as Fu’s sadistic daughter and Wilmer and Crawford continue their “Holmes/Watson” styled relationship. The supporting cast, much of which is dubbed, is less strong and some of the acting is woeful. Despite the period setting, the female characters seem to be dressed and coiffured in 1960s salons adding an anachronistic tone and losing the period colour given to Sharp’s films. That said, there are still moments to enjoy on a basic comic strip level and it remains a notch above what the series would descend into in its the final two instalments. Filmed in Hong Kong and Ireland. Followed by THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU (1968).

Book Review – GOLDFINGER (1959) by Ian Fleming

GOLDFINGER (1959) ***½
by Ian Fleming
This paperback edition published by Vintage, 2012, 372pp
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1959
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1959
Introduction by Kate Mosse (9pp)
ISBN: 978-0-099-57692-1

Blurb: ‘You’re stale, tired of having to be tough. You want a change. You’ve seen too much death’. In Fleming’s seventh 007 novel, a private assignment sets Bond on the trail of an enigmatic criminal mastermind – Auric Goldfinger. But greed and power have created a deadly opponent who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Comment: Fleming’s seventh James Bond novel is his most ambitious plot to date, based around chief villain Auric Goldfinger’s plan to rob the Fort Knox gold depository, which occupies the final section of the book. The novel opens with Bond being asked by a friend to spot how Goldfinger is cheating him at cards. Bond succeeds and embarrasses Goldfinger into handing back his winnings. The pair meet again on the golf course, this time by design as Bond has been asked to investigate how Goldfinger is obtaining his massive wealth. The golf match is well described with Bond again getting the upper hand as Goldfinger fails in his attempt to win back some of his prior losses. Bond then follows Goldfinger across Europe to his factory, where he discovers how Goldfinger is smuggling his gold around the world. Having been discovered, Goldfinger, seemingly out of ego, keeps Bond onside as part of his Operation Grand Slam, the most daring robbery ever plotted. Along the way Bond meets Tilly Masterton, looking to avenge the death of her sister Jill at Goldfinger’s hands and the daringly named Pussy Galore, a lesbian gangster who is invested in Goldfinger’s operation. We also meet Oddjob, the giant Korean henchman with a deadly hat. Fleming’s writing is fluid and there is more of a cynical humour on show. The plot is frankly highly implausible and the final section of the book, whilst picking up the pace considerably, defies belief, whilst remaining wildly entertaining. However, it is hard to accept the logistics of Goldfinger’s plan and more so the way in which it is thwatrted. Goldfinger continues the trend set in Dr. No of Fleming using increasingly fantastical plots and the book feels a light year away from the honed down tension and emotion of Casino Royale.

Film Review – CRIMSON TIDE (1995)

CRIMSON TIDE (1995, USA) ***½
Action, Drama, Thriller
dist. Buena Vista Pictures; pr co. Hollywood Pictures / Don Simpson-Jerry Bruckheimer Films; d. Tony Scott; w. Michael Schiffer (based on a story by Michael Schiffer and Richard P. Henrick); exec pr. Lucas Foster, Mike Moder, Bill Unger; pr. Jerry Bruckheimer, Don Simpson; assoc pr. James W. Skotchdopole; ph. Dariusz Wolski (Technicolor. 35mm (Eastman). Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Hans Zimmer; ed. Chris Lebenzon; pd. Michael White; ad. James J. Murakami, Dianne Wager, Donald B. Woodruff; set d. Mickey S. Michaels; cos. George L. Little; m/up. Ellen Wong, Ron Scott, Michael Mills; sd. George Watters II, John P. Fasal, William B. Kaplan (Dolby Digital); sfx. Al Di Sarro, Darrell Pritchett; vfx. Hoyt Yeatman; st. Steve Picerni; rel. 12 May 1995 (USA), 3 November 1995 (UK); cert: R/15; r/t. 116m.

cast: Denzel Washington (Hunter), Gene Hackman (Ramsey), Matt Craven (Zimmer), George Dzundza (Cob), Viggo Mortensen (Weps), James Gandolfini (Lt. Bobby Dougherty), Rocky Carroll (Lt. Westergaurd), Jaime Gomez (Ood Mahoney), Michael Milhoan (Hunsicker), Scott Burkholder (TSO Billy Linkletter), Danny Nucci (Danny Rivetti), Lillo Brancato (Russell Vossler), Eric Bruskotter (Bennefield), Ricky Schroder (Lt. Paul Hellerman), Steve Zahn (William Barnes), James Lesure (Guard #2), Trevor St. John (Launcher), Dennis Garber (Fire Control Technician), Matthew Barry (Planesman), Christopher Birt (Helmsman).

After the Cold War, a breakaway Russian republic with nuclear warheads becomes a possible worldwide threat. U.S. submarine Capt. Frank Ramsey (Hackman) signs on a relatively green but highly recommended Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hunter (Washington) to the USS Alabama, which may be the only ship able to stop a possible Armageddon. When Ramsay insists that the Alabama must act aggressively, Hunter, fearing they will start rather than stop a disaster, leads a potential mutiny to stop him. Despite its implausible concept, Scott turns out a tense battle of wills between Hackman and Washington. The premise is contrived to build a debate around these men’s opposing views on military procedure and ethics. Their opposing arguments are made intelligently in the first half of the movie, but once a “mutiny” has been triggered the debate is seemingly resolved by the scriptwriters before the final act is played out. This moves the story into a more familiar race against the clock scenario, which plays out in predictable fashion.  What carries the film along, despite its flaws, are the compelling performances of its two stars who are perfectly cast. The tension remains high throughout and the technical attributes are first class. Scott avoids his penchant for showy visuals and concentrates on letting his camera capture the nuances in the performances of his lead actors. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Towne both contributed to the screenplay without credit. Extended version runs to 123m.

AAN: Best Sound (Kevin O’Connell, Rick Kline, Gregory H. Watkins, William B. Kaplan); Best Film Editing (Chris Lebenzon); Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (George Watters II)

Film Review – THE HEROES OF TELEMARK (1965)

HEROES OF TELEMARK, THE (1965, UK) ***
Action, History, War
dist. Rank Film Distributors (UK), Columbia Pictures (USA); pr co. Benton Film Productions; d. Anthony Mann; w. Ivan Moffat, Ben Barzman (based on the novels “Skis Against the Atom” by Knut Haukelid and “But for These Men” by John Drummond – both uncredited); pr. Benjamin Fisz; ph. Robert Krasker (Technicolor. 35mm, 70mm (blow-up). Panavision (anamorphic). 2.20:1 (70 mm prints), 2.35:1); m. Malcolm Arnold; ed. Bert Bates; pd. ; ad. Anthony Masters; set d. Robert Cartwright, Ted Clements (both uncredited); cos. Elsa Fennell; m/up. Neville Smallwood, Maude Onslow; sd. Teddy Mason (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); sfx. John P. Fulton; st. Gerry Crampton; rel. 23 November 1965 (UK), 9 March 1966 (USA); cert: U; r/t. 131m.

cast: Kirk Douglas (Rolf), Richard Harris (Knut Strand), Ulla Jacobsson (Anna), Michael Redgrave (Uncle), David Weston (Arne), Sebastian Breaks (Gunnar), John Golightly (Freddy), Alan Howard (Oli), Patrick Jordan (Henrik), William Marlowe (Claus), Brook Williams (Einar), Roy Dotrice (Jensen), Anton Diffring (Major Frick), Ralph Michael (Nilssen), Eric Porter (Terboven), Wolf Frees (Knippelberg), Karel Stepanek (Hartmuller), Gerard Heinz (Erhardt), Victor Beaumont (German Sergeant), George Murcell (Sturmfuhrer), Mervyn Johns (Col. Wilkinson), Barry Jones (Professor Logan), Geoffrey Keen (General Bolt), Robert Ayres (General Courts), Jennifer Hilary (Sigrid), Maurice Denham (Doctor), David Davies (Captain of ‘Galtesund’), Philo Hauser (Businessman), Faith Brook (Woman On Bus), Elvi Hale (Mrs. Sandersen), Russell Waters (Mr. Sandersen), Jan Conrad (Watchman In Factory).

As Axis and Allied scientists race to create the first atomic bomb, British Intelligence receives shocking news of significant breakthroughs at a Nazi facility in occupied Norway. The British work with Norwegian Resistance head Knut Straud (Harris) and distinguished physicist Dr. Rolf Pederson (Douglas) to plan an urgent response. As a Norwegian team headed by Straud struggles to stop Nazi science in its tracks, a civilian hostage situation erupts. An uneven war adventure, which is a disappointment from a director with a legacy such as Mann. His direction here feels loose and the editing is at times slipshod – with real black and white bomber footage jarring against the Technicolor presentation and German soldiers seemingly blind as the resistance leaders simply shuffle past them time after time. The film’s strongest assets are the leads. Douglas and Harris give strong performances in an initially antagonistic partnership that grows as the film progresses. Some of the action scenes are well-staged and there is an added tension in the film’s climax aboard a ferry. Ultimately, though, this could have been much better.

Film Review – THE EAGLE HAS LANDED (1976)

The Eagle Has Landed (1976) | They shoot jerries, don't they?EAGLE HAS LANDED, THE (1976, UK) ***½
Adventure, Drama, War
dist. Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK), Columbia Pictures (USA); pr co. Associated General Films / ITC Entertainment; d. John Sturges; w. Tom Mankiewicz (based on the novel by Jack Higgins); pr. David Niven Jr., Jack Wiener; ph. Anthony B. Richmond (Colour. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.35:1); m. Lalo Schifrin; ed. Anne V. Coates; pd. Peter Murton; ad. Charles Bishop; set d. Peter James; cos. Yvonne Blake; m/up. Eric Allwright, Paul Rabiger, Freddie Williamson, Betty Glasow, Mike Jones; sd. Jonathan Bates, Robin Gregory (Mono (35 mm prints) | 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | 4-Track Stereo (some 35 mm prints) (London premiere print)); sfx. Roy Whybrow; st. Gerry Crampton; rel. 25 December 1976 (Finland/Sweden), 31 March 1977 (UK), 2 April 1977 (USA); cert: PG/15; r/t. 135m.

cast: Michael Caine (Oberst Kurt Steiner), Donald Sutherland (Liam Devlin), Robert Duvall (Colonel Radl), Jenny Agutter (Molly), Donald Pleasence (Himmler), Anthony Quayle (Admiral Canaris), Jean Marsh (Joanna Grey), Sven-Bertil Taube (Captain von Neustadt), John Standing (Father Verecker), Judy Geeson (Pamela), Treat Williams (Captain Clark), Larry Hagman (Colonel Pitts), Alexei Jawdokimov (Corporal Kuniski), Richard Wren (Hans Altmann), Michael Byrne (Karl), Joachim Hansen (SS-Obergruppenführer), Denis Lill (Churchill’s aide), Rick Parsé (E-Boat Commander), Léonie Thelen (Branna), Keith Buckley (Hauptmann Gericke).

This adaptation of Jack Higgins’ bestseller has a fanciful plot of a team of WWII German soldiers and spies out to kidnap Winston Churchill to enable Nazi Germany to bargain a stronger settlement in lieu of their inevitable defeat. That it remains entertaining throughout is largely due to its strong cast. Caine is the sympathetic German commander; Duvall the architect of the scheme and Sutherland the German-Irish spy who infiltrates the English village community. Pleasence is also excellent as the scheming Himmler. Hagman’s bombastic performance, however, is off-key as a gung-ho American commander out to prove his superior’s judgement of him wrong. The love interest between Sutherland and Agutter also feels false and the sleepy locale is at odds with the stakes at play. The battle scenes in the final third of the movie are well edited though, covering up for Sturges’ reported lack of interest in post-production. The result is an enjoyable adventure that could have been better but demonstrates the importance of interesting casting and enthusiastic performances. The US release ran for 123m. An extended cut was released on DVD with 15m additional footage.

TV Movie Review – SHAFT: THE KIDNAPPING (1973)

Life Between Frames: Worth Mentioning - The Cat That Won't Cop OutSHAFT: THE KIDNAPPING (TV) (1973, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Drama
net. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. MGM Television; d. Alexander Singer; w. Allan Balter. William Read Woodfield ; exec pr. Allan Balter; pr. William Read Woodfield; ass pr. Dann Cahn; ph. Michael Hugo (Metrocolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Johnny Pate, theme m. Isaac Hayes; m sup. Harry V Lojewski; ed. George Folsey Jr.; ad. Bill Ross; set d. Richard Friedman; cos. Norman A. Burza, Sylvia Liggett; m/up. Jack Wilson, Billie Jordan; sd. Robert J. Miller, Hal Watkins (Mono); b/cast. 11 December 1973 (USA); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 74m.

cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Eddie Barth (Lt. Al Rossi), Paul Burke (Elliot Williamson), Karen Carlson (Nancy Williamson), Nicolas Beauvy (Matthew Potter), Greg Mullavey (Beck), Timothy Scott (Hayden), Victor Brandt (Leo), Frank Marth (Sheriff Bradley), Philip Kenneally (Deputy Walter), Erik Holland (Deputy Daley), Frank Whiteman (Deputy Milton), Stephen Coit (Mr. Tolliver), Jayne Kennedy (Debbie), Richard Stahl (Potter), Joe Petrullo (Cab Driver), Robert Casper (Bank customer), Rudy Doucette (Police Officer (uncredited)).

A banker’s wife is kidnapped, and the kidnappers insist that Shaft deliver the ransom. But complications arise when, on the way to the drop point, Shaft is stopped by an overzealous deputy who won’t listen to a word he says. This was the first shot episode (broadcast fourth) of the Shaft TV Movie series and it is little more than standard TV fare. However, its individual  elements lift it above other more modest entries in the TV series and it is a pretty good introduction for TV audiences to a more family friendly John Shaft. TV at the time was not ready for the Shaft seen on the big screen, so compromises were made with the character’s abrasiveness, salty language, violent approach to detection and his wooing of the opposite sex. These elements were dialled down. To compensate the producers extracted footage from the chase finale in SHAFT’S BIG SCORE! and repurposed it here to introduce Shaft to a TV audience. This provides a dynamic opening , which a TV budget could not match for the rest of the story. Shaft’s shootout with the bad guys at the story’s conclusion is low-scale compared to the imported opening. Nevertheless, Roundtree shows glimpses of his big screen persona and has an athletic presence throughout.

Film Review – ESCAPE TO ATHENA (1979)

BBC Two - Escape to AthenaESCAPE TO ATHENA (1979, UK) **½
Action, Adventure, Comedy, War
dist. ITC Film Distributors (UK), Associated Film Distribution (AFD) (USA); pr co. Incorporated Television Company (ITC); d. George P. Cosmatos; w. Edward Anhalt, Richard Lochte (based on a story by Richard Lochte and George P. Cosmatos); exec pr. Lew Grade (uncredited); pr. David Niven Jr., Jack Wiener, Erwin C. Dietrich (uncredited); assoc pr. Colin M. Brewer; ph. Gilbert Taylor (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Lalo Schifrin; ed. Ralph Kemplen; ad. Petros Kapouralis; set d. Peter James; cos. Yvonne Blake; m/up. Eric Allwright, Paul Engelen, Ramon Gow, Mike Jones, Jacques Moisant; sd. Nicholas Stevenson, Derek Ball, Bill Rowe (Mono); sfx. John Richardson; st. Vic Armstrong; rel. 9 March 1979 (UK), 6 June 1979 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 125m.

cast: Roger Moore (Major Otto Hecht), Telly Savalas (Zeno), David Niven (Professor Blake), Stefanie Powers (Dottie Del Mar), Claudia Cardinale (Eleana), Richard Roundtree (Nat Judson), Sonny Bono (Bruno Rotelli), Elliott Gould (Charlie Dane), Anthony Valentine (SS Major Volkmann), Siegfried Rauch (Braun), Michael Sheard (Sergeant Mann), Richard Wren (Reistoffer), Philip Locke (Vogel), Steve Ubels (Lantz), Paul Picerni (Zeno’s Man), Paul Stassino (Zeno’s Man).

A bizarre mix of World War II adventure and comedy, involving a group of Allied P.O.W.s, Nazis, black market priceless art treasures, Greek resistance, a Greek monastery, and a secret German rocket base. The film was shot in Rhodes and feels like it was made on a holiday for its impressive roster of stars – most of whom sport anachronistic apparel and haircuts. There is a laziness to much of the direction and story-telling that is only marginally offset by some excellent stunt work and pyrotechnics. That said the action sequences are often poorly shot and fail to generate the level of excitement and suspense the budget spend deserves. As for the cast, Moore is badly miscast as the German Commandant, whilst Gould’s wisecracking  troupe comedian character and performance feel like they belong in another movie. The pluses are Savalas’ determined resistance leader and Cardinale’s passionate brothel owner. Niven coasts on his natural charm as an art historian, whilst Powers delivers an energetic performance as a dancer pursued by Moore. Roundtree has little else to do than fire his gun, whilst Bono is another bizarre casting choice as an army chef. Even Lalo Schifrin’s score lacks pizzazz. Ultimately, Cosmatos is not able to find the right tone and action fans will be disappointed in this sub-Alistair MacLean tale.  Watch for William Holden in a brief cameo as one of the prisoners. Edited US prints run to 101m.

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi Poster by Josh Kirby, 1983 for sale at PamonoSTAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983, USA) ***½
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox ; pr co. Lucasfilm; d. Richard Marquand; w. Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas (based on a story by George Lucas); exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Howard G. Kazanjian, Rick McCallum; ph. Alan Hume (DeLuxe. 35mm (Eastman 5384). Digital Intermediate (4K) (2019 remaster), Dolby Vision, J-D-C Scope (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Sean Barton, Duwayne Dunham, Marcia Lucas; pd. Norman Reynolds; ad. Fred Hole, James L. Schoppe; set d. Michael Ford, Harry Lange; cos. Aggie Guerard Rodgers, Nilo Rodis-Jamero; m/up. Stuart Freeborn, Graham Freeborn, Tom Smith, Pat McDermott; sd. Ben Burtt (70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby (35 mm prints)); sfx. Roy Arbogast; vfx. Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston; st. Glenn Randall; rel. 25 May 1983 (USA), 2 June 1983 (UK); cert: U; r/t. 131m.

cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Sebastian Shaw (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (The Emperor), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), James Earl Jones (Darth Vader (voice)), David Prowse (Darth Vader), Alec Guinness (Ben ‘Obi-Wan’ Kenobi), Kenny Baker (R2-D2 / Paploo), Michael Pennington (Moff Jerjerrod), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Michael Carter (Bib Fortuna), Denis Lawson (Wedge), Tim Rose (Admiral Ackbar), Dermot Crowley (General Madine), Caroline Blakiston (Mon Mothma), Warwick Davis (Wicket), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Femi Taylor (Oola), Annie Arbogast (Sy Snootles), Claire Davenport (Fat Dancer), Jack Purvis (Teebo), Mike Edmonds (Logray), Jane Busby (Chief Chirpa), Malcolm Dixon (Ewok Warrior (as Malcom Dixon)), Mike Cottrell (Ewok Warrior), Nicolas Read (Nicki (as Nicki Reade)), Adam Bareham (Stardestroyer Controller #1), Jonathan Oliver (Stardestroyer Controller #2), Pip Miller (Stardestroyer Captain #1), Tom Mannion (Stardestroyer Captain #2), Margo Apostolos (Ewok (as Margo Apostocos)), Ray Armstrong (Ewok), Eileen Baker (Ewok), Michael Henbury Ballan (Ewok (as Michael H. Balham)), Bobby Bell (Ewok), Patty Bell (Ewok), Alan Bennett (Ewok), Sarah Bennett (Ewok), Pamela Betts (Ewok), Danny Blackner (Ewok (as Dan Blackner)), Linda Bowley (Ewok), Peter Burroughs (Ewok), Debbie Lee Carrington (Romba Ewok (as Debbie Carrington)), Maureen Charlton (Ewok), Willie Coppen (Ewok (as William Coppen)), Sadie Corre (Ewok (as Sadie Corrie)), Tony Cox (Ewok), John Cumming (Ewok), Jean D’Agostino (Ewok), Luis De Jesus (Ewok), Debbie Dixon (Ewok), Margarita Farrell (Ewok (as Margarita Fernandez)), Phil Fondacaro (Ewok), Sal Fondacaro (Ewok), Tony Friel (Ewok), Daniel Frishman (Ewok (as Dan Frishman)), John Ghavan (Ewok (as John Gavam)), Michael Gilden (Ewok), Paul Grant (Ewok), Lydia Green (Ewok), Lars Green (Ewok), Pam Grizz (Ewok), Andrew Herd (Ewok / Jawa), J.J. Jackson (Ewok),

As the evil Emperor Palpatine (McDiarmid) oversees the construction of the new Death Star by Darth Vader (Prowse/Jones) and the Galactic Empire, smuggler Han Solo (Ford) is rescued from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt by his friends, Luke Skywalker (Hamill), Princess Leia (Fisher), Lando Calrissian (Williams), and Chewbacca (Mayhew). Leaving Luke Skywalker Jedi training with Master Yoda (Oz), Solo returns to the Rebel fleet to prepare to complete his battle with the Empire. During the ensuing fighting, the newly returned Luke Skywalker is captured by Darth Vader. This third of the original STAR WARS trilogy is the least effective, being served by a script that offers little new and unimaginative direction. The Death Star plot merely re-cycles that of the first film and the character interaction lacks the slick camaraderie so apparent in the first two films. Fortunately, there is sufficient action and bravura in the lead performances to push through these faults and produce an entertaining, if flawed, conclusion. 1997 Special edition with added new effects runs to 134m. Original title: RETURN OF THE JEDI. Followed by STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999).

AA: Special Achievement Award: Visual Effects (Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, Phil Tippett)
AAN: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Norman Reynolds, Fred Hole, James L. Schoppe, Michael Ford); Best Sound (Ben Burtt, Gary Summers, Randy Thom, Tony Dawe); Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing (Ben Burtt); Best Music, Original Score (John Williams)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

Star Wars: Leigh Brackett and The Empire Strikes Back You Never Saw | Den  of GeekSTAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980, USA) *****
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox ; pr co. Lucasfilm; d. Irvin Kershner; w. Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan (based on a story by George Lucas); exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Gary Kurtz, Rick McCallum; ass pr. Jim Bloom, Robert Watts; ph. Peter Suschitzky (DeLuxe. 35mm. Digital Intermediate (4K) (2019 remaster), Dolby Vision, Panavision (anamorphic), VistaVision (special effects). 2.35:1); m. John Williams; m sup. ; ed. Paul Hirsch; pd. Norman Reynolds; ad. Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins; set d. Michael Ford; cos. John Mollo; m/up. Graham Freeborn, Stuart Freeborn, Barbara Ritchie; sd. Richard Burrow, Bonnie Koehler, Teresa Eckton (70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Dolby Stereo (35 mm prints) | Dolby Digital EX (DVD) | DTS-ES (6.1 channels) (Blu-ray) | Dolby Atmos); sfx. Nick Allder, Neil Swan, David H. Watkins; vfx. Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Bruce Nicholson; st. Peter Diamond; rel. 17 May 1980 (USA), 20 May 1980 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 124m.

cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), David Prowse (Darth Vader), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Alec Guinness (Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), John Hollis (Lobot, Lando’s Aide), Jack Purvis (Chief Ugnaught), Des Webb (Snow Creature), Clive Revill (Emperor (voice)), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Julian Glover (General Veers), Michael Sheard (Admiral Ozzel), Michael Culver (Captain Needa), John Dicks (Imperial Officer), Milton Johns (Imperial Officer), Mark Jones (Imperial Officer), Oliver Maguire (Imperial Officer), Robin Scobey (Imperial Officer), Bruce Boa (Rebel Force General Rieekan), Christopher Malcolm (Rebel Force Zev (Rogue 2) (as Christopher Malcom)), Denis Lawson (Rebel Force Wedge (Rogue 3) (as Dennis Lawson)), Richard Oldfield (Rebel Force Hobbie (Rogue 4)), John Morton (Rebel Force Dak (Luke’s Gunner)), Ian Liston (Rebel Force Janson (Wedge’s Gunner)), John Ratzenberger (Rebel Force Major Derlin), Jack McKenzie (Rebel Force Deck Lieutenant), Jerry Harte (Rebel Force Head Controller), Norman Chancer (Other Rebel Officer), Norwich Duff (Other Rebel Officer), Ray Hassett (Other Rebel Officer), Brigitte Kahn (Other Rebel Officer), Burnell Tucker (Other Rebel Officer).

Luke Skywalker (Hamill), Han Solo (Ford), Princess Leia (Fisher) and Chewbacca (Mayhew) face attack by the Imperial forces and its AT-AT walkers on the ice planet Hoth. While Han and Leia escape in the Millennium Falcon, Luke travels to Dagobah in search of Yoda. Only with the Jedi Master’s help will Luke survive when the Dark Side of the Force beckons him into the ultimate duel with Darth Vader (Prowse/Jones). The sequel to STAR WARS was confirmation we were now into a full blown series – this one listed as Episode V. Being the middle film in the first trilogy the film gains by the reduced need for character and background set-up and loses in the lack of closure. However, as a cinema experience it was, and still is, exhilarating. The action sequences are superbly edited and imaginatively handled. The story has a darker tone with its portent around the dark side of the force and the relationship between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker and the finale is truly memorable. Williams’ majestic score drives the action along and Hamill, Ford and Fisher pick up where they left off. The developing relationship between Ford’s Han Solo and Fisher’s princess Leia gives the story an emotional edge and the introduction of Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian adds another memorable character to the roster. The muppetry with Jedi Master Yoda and a cameo from Guinness keep the mysticism at a high level only hinted at in the first film. A true fantasy classic. Special edition with new effects runs 127m. Original title: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Followed by STAR WARS: EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).

AA: Best Sound (Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, Peter Sutton); Visual Effects (Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Bruce Nicholson)

AAN: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins, Michael Ford); Best Music, Original Score (John Williams)

Film Review – THUNDERBALL (1965)

Thunderball (1965) Review - The Action EliteTHUNDERBALL (1965, UK) ****
Action, Adventure, Thriller
dist. United Artists Corporation; pr co. Eon Productions; d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, John Hopkins (based on a story by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham and Ian Fleming and an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham); exec pr. Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman (each uncredited); pr. Kevin McClory; ass pr. Stanley Sopel (uncredited); ph. Ted Moore (Technicolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. John Barry; ed. Ernest Hosler; pd. Ken Adam; ad. Peter Murton; set d. Peter Lamont (uncredited); cos. Anthony Mendleson; m/up. Basil Newall, Paul Rabiger; sd. Maurice Askew, Bert Ross, Eileen Warwick (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); sfx. John Stears; vfx. Roy Field (uncredited); st. Yvan Chiffre; rel. 21 December 1965 (USA), 29 December 1965 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 130m.

cast: Sean Connery (James Bond), Claudine Auger (Dominique ‘Domino’ Derval), Adolfo Celi (Emilio Largo), Luciana Paluzzi (Fiona Volpe), Rik Van Nutter (Felix Leiter), Guy Doleman (Count Lippe), Molly Peters (Patricia Fearing), Martine Beswick (Paula Caplan), Bernard Lee (‘M’), Desmond Llewelyn (‘Q’), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Roland Culver (Home Secretary), Earl Cameron (Pinder Romania), Paul Stassino (Angelo Palazzi / Major François Duval), Rose Alba (Madame Bouvar), Philip Locke (Vargas), George Pravda (Pofessor Ladislaw Kutze), Michael Brennan (Janni), Leonard Sachs (Group Captain Pritchard), Edward Underdown (SIr John – Air Marshal), Reginald Beckwith (Kenniston), Harold Sanderson (Hydrofoil Captain).

When a British Vulcan bomber is stolen with two atomic bombs on board. S.P.E.C.T.R.E. announce that they have the plane and will detonate the bombs unless one hundred million dollars worth of uncut diamonds are delivered. James Bond (Connery) tracks the plane down to the Bahamas but still has to deal with the deadly Emilio Largo (Celi). This was the biggest Bond film of the 1960s and is one of the best. Connery is at the height of his game here and the story has a scale that is larger than any of the previous entries. The underwater sequences may tend toward the slow side, but on the whole the story moves along at a good clip and is well edited. The humour is more evident, but it is still kept in check. Paluzzi is one of the best Bond villainesses and her verbal and literal tussles with Connery are memorable. The Bahamas are well photographed, and the underwater staging is handled with skill by second unit director Ricou Browning. Followed by YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967). Remade with Connery as NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983).

AA: Best Effects, Special Visual Effects (John Stears).